My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Family's Past - Ariel Sabar
Ariel Sabar’s lovely little book, My Father’s Paradise (Algonquin, $25.95), is at once a history of the Kurdish Jews and a family memoir. Ariel’s father, Yona, the last child Bar Mitzvahed in Zakho in northern Iraq, grew up speaking Aramaic, the language that dominated the Middle East at the time of Jesus. After Israel was founded, the Iraqi Jews were forced to immigrate there. Israel was not prepared for the enormous influx of very poor, unskilled and in some cases illiterate Jews from Arab countries, and Ariel’s grandparents, Rahamim and Miryam, who had been respected citizens in Zakho, were subject to bruising discrimination. Nevertheless, Yona went to university in Israel and graduate school at Yale and now is a professor at UCLA. His story is the remarkable leap from a primitive village to the most sophisticated Western life. Ariel Sabar, a journalist, wrote this book as an act of repentance for his teenage defiance and embarrassment of his hopelessly unhip father.